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The devout believer in YHWH Obadiah has informed Elijah in 1 Kings 18 that he has hidden 100 prophets in caves:

KJV 1Ki 18:13  Was it not told my lord what I did when Jezebel slew the prophets of the LORD, how I hid an hundred men of the LORD'S prophets by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water?

After this Elijah declares that he is the only prophet left, both to the prophets of Baal 18:22 and God himself 19:10:

KJV 1Ki 18:22  Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the LORD; but Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men. 

1Ki 19:10  And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.

Why does Elijah say that he is the only prophet left?

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  • This is not an answer but more like a consideration: Obadiah hid the prophets at a time when Jezebel was attempting to murder all the prophets of Jehovah. Given that Elijah along with the 150 other prophets survived, maybe Elijah was protecting Obadiah. It's one thing for Elijah to escape Jezebel's wrath, but another for the 150 prophets who are not known to to have survived to have also escaped. However this implies that Elijah lied to Ahab. – redapemusic35 Sep 8 '17 at 16:49
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    That would make sense for the first time, but in 19:10 Elijah complains to God that he is the only prophet left. – Chris Wright Sep 8 '17 at 20:25
  • Obadiah did say that Ahab would kill him when he went back. Twice. Remember, Ahab would have thought that Obadiah had been holding back the truth about Elijah's whereabouts the entire time. I think it is a pretty far-fetched idea to think Ahab and Jezebel wouldn't have killed Obadiah now that they knew where Elijah was. – elika kohen Nov 14 '17 at 14:20
  • Maybe this explains his seemingly "out of character" cowardice when Jezebel sent him a death threat. Elijah met Obadiah at the wrong time and because of this, Ahab/Jezebel would have reasonable grounds to assume Obadiah "knew where Elijah was the entire time" and thus kill him. The recent deaths of the Baal prophets by Elijah's hands only made the plans even more ripe. Elijah soon realised this and had bloodguilt on his hands, like David in his culpability over Ahimelech's death in the Nob massacre. His guilt and imminent death combine to torment him. No wonder why he was scared s***less. – AngelusVastator Apr 15 at 8:29
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Elijah was the only prophet standing to confront Ahab. The others were in hiding, and were not before the people to do the work of the Lord.

Barne's Notes on the Bible for 1 Kings 18:22 offers:

"I, even I, only remain - He means, "I only remain in the exercise of the office of a prophet." The others (Compare 1 Kings 18:4) had been forced to fly and hide themselves in dens and caves of the earth; their voices were silenced; they had not ventured to come to Carmel. Elijah contrasts his solitary appearance on the side of Yahweh at the great gathering with the crowd of those opposed to him. " Source: Biblehub

Matthew Poole's Commentary on same:

"I only remain, to wit, here present, publicly to own and plead the cause of God; for he opposeth himself only to Baal’s four’ hundred and fifty prophets, because they only were present; the prophets of the groves being, it seems, not permitted by Jezebel (through her pride, or obstinacy, or care and kindness to them) to go thither. See 1 Kings 22:6. As for the other prophets of the Lord, many of them were slain by Ahab or Jezebel, others banished, or hid in caves. " Ibid.

Elijah was the only prophet present standing against 450 of Baal's.

  • The fear reaction is very strong. Even Isaiah, just after he had demonstrated the very powerful presence and reality of God, became afraid when Jezebel threatened his life (1 Kings 19:2). He ran and hid. Why did Isaiah forget the very power of God that he had just stood for in front of Ahab. And listen to God ask in a still small voice: ..."What doest thou here, Elijah?" (i Kings 19:13) Did Isaiah forget that God would protect him? Or was it a fight or flight response of an imperfect man? Jezebel ruled through fear, just as many do today. – Gina Nov 13 '17 at 18:52
  • Pardon my slip... I meant Elijah, not Isaiah in the comment above. – Gina Nov 13 '17 at 23:24
  • When Elijah spoke this - it had nothing to do with standing against Baal, or Ahab and Jezebel. In the text and if the other prophets were still alive, then then Elijah was running for his life too. Afterwards, he even begged God to let him die. This is not standing against Baal. – elika kohen Nov 14 '17 at 14:21
  • Are you discounting the stand against all of the priests of Baal in 1 Kings 18? Elijah withstood them and stood for God. That he got scared when threatened by Jezebel afterward doesn't wash away the previous actions. Jezebel's threat in chap 19 was a direct result of Elijah's and God discrediting her priests of Baal. ?? – Gina Nov 14 '17 at 15:05
  • Gina - I am just pointing to the chronological order of the text. If interpreted as you suggest: At some prior point in time, all of those others had stood too, and then ran - putting Elijah in good company, (which is another contradiction). Regardless, the author(s) are conveying "Elijah's Distress" - which was clearly not about the conflict with the prophets of Baal: 1 Kings 18:27 - It came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened.” – elika kohen Nov 14 '17 at 16:18
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Maybe he as unaware of the truth, seeing he was in a depressive state, asking God to take his life. And an argument towards this direction would be:

... I, even I only, remain a prophet of the LORD; but Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men.
-- 1 Kings 18:22 (KJV)

Albert Barnes notes concerning Elijah's words:

I, even I, only remain - He means, "I only remain in the exercise of the office of a prophet." The others (Compare 1 Kings 18:4) had been forced to fly and hide themselves in dens and caves of the earth; their voices were silenced; they had not ventured to come to Carmel. Elijah contrasts his solitary appearance on the side of Yahweh at the great gathering with the crowd of those opposed to him.
-- Barnes Notes on the Bible (BibleHub)

However God's answer to Elijah reveals the real truth:

Yet I will leave 7000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.
-- 1 Kings 19:18 (NASB)

Could it be that these 7000 thousands men that have not bowed to Baal included the 150 prophets Obadiah hid, as well? I say, it could!

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I like St. John Chrysostom's psychological interpretation: Elijah was afraid of doing his mission, that's why tried to circumvent it by saying that he is the only prophet left, so what would happen if even his life would be endangered. And so, God's answer to him that there are more faithful left, than Elijah, is to reprimand his cowardice and encourage him to follow His call.

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1. Question:

Rephrase: Why does Elijah say he is the only prophet left, when the prophet Obadiah says he wasn't?

Quick Answer: Elijah likely said this - because he believed it to be true for the same reasons stated in the texts ...

The apparent contradiction:

NASB, 1 Kings 18:3-4 - ... (Now Obadiah feared the Lord greatly; 4 for when Jezebel destroyed the prophets of the Lord, Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave, and provided them with bread and water.)

NASB, 1 Kings 18:22 - Then Elijah said to the people, “I alone am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men.


2. Context & Correcting Misperceptions:

Elijah wasn't in distress about the prophets of Baal:

It cannot be reasonably argued that Elijah's distress and statement about being alone had anything to do with being the "only one standing" against the prophets of Baal - far from it:

NASB, 1 Kings 18:27 - It came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened.”

Elijah didn't actually "remain" standing - against anyone:

The text, (1 Kings 18:22, Interlinear), cannot possibly be interpreted as though Elijah believed he was the only prophet left standing against Baal, Ahab, and Jezebel. In fact, he was running for his life - just like the other "prophets" had done before.

NASB, 1 Kings 19:3 - And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. ... 10. ... I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”

So, Elijah must have been speaking about being the "only prophet" - in a different sense.

The difference between "Only" and "Alone":

At the very least, the Hebrew text supports an interpretation that Elijah might have been saying he was a prophet alone | בַּד, (cf. "לְבַדּ֔וֹ" in 1 Kings 18:6, Interlinear), rather than an only | בַּד prophet, (cf. "לְבַדּ֖וֹ" in 2 Samuel 13:33, Interlinear). Hermeneutically, the reader has discretion here.

NASB, 1 Kings 19:4 - But he [Elijah] .. requested for himself that he might die, and said, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.”

In the text, when Elijah begged God to let him die God granted his request - without correcting any of Elijah's claims.

Elijah was truly alone.

This is all consistent with the Scriptures that say say it is necessary to strengthen the weary to help prevent their own fall:

Paraphrase, Job 4:4; Hebrews 12:12 - Strengthen the hands that hang down, and the knees that are weak and feeble.


3. Elijah truly was the only - faithful - prophet left:

The inferences that Elijah was alone, and that Elijah was the only faithful prophet left, are the strongest conclusions - because they are directly supported by the text.

It is entirely plausible that Elijah was the only prophet who had not actually "bowed his knee to Baal".

In context, Elijah wasn't saying that there weren't other "prophets" in Israel, nor that there weren't other "believers" - Elijah was speaking about remaining faithful to God - never bowing having bowed his knee to Baal:

NASB, 1 Kings 19:18 - Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

As a side note, statistically speaking: if it is true that God only pointed to 7000 faithful remaining - in all Israel - then it is extremely probable that Elijah truly was the only faithful prophet left.


4. Just because someone has the gifts of prophecy, doesn't make them a prophet:

According to the texts, Elijah actually was the only anointed Prophet, (a title and office of authority), at that time, regardless of whether there were others with prophetic gifts.

NASB, 1 Kings 19:16 - ... And Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place.

In the Old Testament, there are actually many examples of people exercising prophetic gifts but not actually being "anointed prophets", (they didn't have authority):

NASB, 1 Samuel 20:11 - ... Is Saul also among the prophets?

NASB, Joshua 13:22 - The sons of Israel also killed Balaam the son of Beor, the diviner, with the sword among the rest of their slain.

The New Testament also clearly distinguishes between the gifts of prophecy, and the office of a prophet, (in Ephesians 4, and 1 Corinthians 12-14).

In 1 Kings, the "Other Prophets" even Prophesied their Own Deaths due to Unfaithfulness:

NASB, 1 Kings 20:35 - Now a certain man of the sons of the prophets said to another by the word of the Lord, “Please strike me.” But the man refused to strike him. 36 Then he said to him, “Because you have not listened to the voice of the Lord, behold, as soon as you have departed from me, a lion will kill you.” And as soon as he had departed from him a lion found him and killed him.


5. Obadiah and the other prophets might have been dead when Elijah spoke:

The writers of the Old Testament never attempt to give complete histories, and often omit very relevant information.

Given that the entire context is about Ahab, Jezebel and rampant murder, it is entirely plausible that Obadiah was killed once he delivered Elijah's message, and then the rest of the prophets he had hid afterwards.

Either: 1.) Obadiah wasn't a "true and faithful prophet" - and Elijah was right; or 2.) Obadiah actually was a true and faithful prophet, but prophesied his own death - and Elijah was right; or 3.) Ahab and Jezebel decided to "be nice" and to let Obadiah live - believing that he had been honest with them all along, and didn't care he was a faithful prophet - and the writer of the text was incredibly inconsistent and contradictory in a very small context, (improbable).

What proves a "Prophet" as an "Anointed Prophet" - Their words never fail:

NKJV, 1 Samuel 3:19 - So Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.

This might explain why true prophets might consider it a terrifying and shameful thing to be a prophet, (Zechariah 13:4) - and safeguard every word that comes out of their mouths.

NKJV, Deuteronomy 18:22 - when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him [(those self-proclaimed prophets never had authority)].

Obadiah prophesied his own death:

NASB, 1 Kings 18:9 - He [Obadiah] said [to Elijah], “What sin have I committed, that you are giving your servant into the hand of Ahab to put me to death? 10 As the Lord your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom where my master has not sent to search for you; and when they said, ‘He is not here,’ he made the kingdom or nation swear that they could not find you. 11 And now you are saying, ‘Go, say to your master, “Behold, Elijah is here.”’

The prospect of inadvertently prophesying one's own death might have been terrifying to a prophet, (though things like this happened many times in Scripture: Pharaoh's prophesy about the first born comes to mind, and Proverbs 18:21). There is no reason to conclude that Obadiah's prediction was wrong.

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Obadiah's compelling knowledge about the behaviors and atrocities of both Jezebel and Ahab cannot be minimized. Therefore, going back to their palace with this report from Eljah not only could be his own self fulfilling prophecy but carrying his own death sentence.

  • Welcome to the Hermeneutics forum, Ernest. This forum is different from most others in that answers need to be supported by scriptural evidence, word studies, different translations, and scholarly commentary. Your assertion may be entirely correct, but without the support I mentioned, you will need to support it. See some highly rated answers to give you an idea of what's required here. Best wishes, – Dieter Jun 8 '18 at 23:06

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